Is it a bad sign when you walk out of a theater wondering if you've ever seen a worse movie?
I appreciate good graphic novels (What's black and white and read all over?, June 28, 2008) and know that Watchmen on paper, first published in 1986/1987, is one of the best and most thoughtful long-form comic books ever. It examines the role of heroes in a cultural twilight and places them in a parallel universe where the Cold War, instead of winding down, is ratcheting up to mutual destruction.
Watchmen on film fails in every way. Its characters don't give us a reason to care about them. It trades comic book exuberance for sententious joylessness. It is ratomorphic, viewing human beings as vermin. It's pornographic in part, most obnoxiously in a sex scene that uses Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" as sacrilegious musical background.
Watchmen is an object lesson in how following the letter of a work in one medium violates its spirit upon transfer to another. One panel's worth of comic book blood becomes prolonged bone-cracking, blood-gushing assault on the big screen. I have a high tolerance for movie violence, but this brutality was numbing.